In the last couple of decades, a tectonic shift has altered the landscape of Jewish philanthropy. The phenomenon is not only Jewish — the number of foundations in the United States has grown fivefold in the last 20 years; the same growth in donor-advised funds has taken just a decade.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had long been led by a mammoth and, some would say, symbolic board of directors. But last week the 133-member board voted nearly unanimously to dissolve itself and reconstitute about 65 percent lighter.
Scene and heard.
I believe that we can again make The Federation exciting and relevant to the Jewish community. I ask you to join with me in a new inclusive Jewish Federation; one that is especially welcoming to the young professional leaders in our lay community. If the challenge appeals to you, don't hesitate to contact me ... we'll find a meaningful position for you. The responsibility of Jewish continuity and the Jewish future and Klal Yisrael is not a job for a small group of elite Jews, but rather a job for all of us and I hope The Federation will be your door to fulfilling that responsibility.
I have been asked to reflect on the challenge of engaging younger Jewish philanthropists in communal life. As a member of the next generation, I have wrestled with this question for more than a decade.
Profiles of Jewish philanthropists.
While economists fret over how the falling U.S. dollar will affect global markets, Jewish charities that rely heavily on U.S. fundraising to support programs outside the United States are facing serious budget crunches.
North American federations could and should be doing much better than they are. They matter. They are important. They embody the ideas of community, common cause and the ability to respond to collective concerns. They are vital institutions, and we want them to succeed. Federations have been the hub of a vast system that involves community centers, family services, bureaus of Jewish education and so many more organizations. But this system is becoming unglued, and changes need to be made.
Jewish foundations are growing by leaps and bounds, giving away billions of dollars and supporting practically every cause and organization that you can imagine. This is good news, unless of course you are in the camp that believes Jews and the foundations they create are misguided if they give to non-Jewish, rather than Jewish, organizations.
For generations, the North American Jewish federation system has stood as the central address of Jewish philanthropy -- demonstrating from generation to generation the power of our collective to build our community.The 155 federations of United Jewish Communities and 400 smaller networked communities boast an annual fundraising campaign nearing $900 million and endowment assets of more than $13 billion.UJC's lay and professional leadership recently set out to look at our philanthropic landscape. In June, the UJC launched a strategic plan that tackles the major challenges and opportunities facing Jewish federations and our entire community.
Jewish philanthropy in Israel is at a crossroads. Powerful trends are marginalizing its impact on Israeli society. More than a billion dollars of philanthropic giving from Jews worldwide, spurred by endless goodwill, passion and care, are not impacting Israel or contributing to global Jewish peoplehood to the extent they should. The current system is in dire need of an overhaul.
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles president and CEO Marvin I. Schotland sat down with The Jewish Journal recently to talk about the changing nature of Jewish philanthropy.
While Chabad has tapped into perhaps the fastest-growing sector in the philanthropic world, many sectors of the Jewish world have been slow to catch on to the Internet era. "Some Jewish organizations have been more successful than others," said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, which studies Jewish philanthropy. "But you don't see many who are very successful, other than the Jewish National Fund [JNF]."
There's a new mitzvah in the Jewish world, and its name is Africa. It is hard not to notice the increased money and energy Jews and Jewish organizations are putting into the continent.
Stanley P. Gold wastes few words describing the status of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. "It is largely irrelevant," he said last week. What makes Gold's remark so stark is that on Jan. 1, the sharp-tongued and fast-paced Gold, a 65-year-old self-described "monomaniac on a mission," will take over lay leadership at The Federation as chairman of the board.
On the second day after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake shook the southern coast of this Andean country, killing at least 500 people, injuring more than 1,500 and leaving tens of thousands homeless, students began arriving at the school carrying food, water, clothing, sleeping bags and other relief items for the victims. The collection is part of a two-pronged response to the disaster, according to John Gleiser, president of the Jewish Association of Peru. The first step is delivery of emergency aid, while the second will focus on helping with long-term reconstruction.
And as we've seen this week, God -- or human resourcefulness -- has blessed a quick reconstruction of northern Israel. But Olmert's comments seemed particularly ungrateful because he spoke not only to the American journalists, but also to some top officials of the United Jewish Communities (UJC).
You can't talk about Jewish philanthropy without talking about Jewish priorities. For many years now, a huge priority for the American Jewish community has been to fight assimilation -- what is elegantly called "Jewish continuity." It's a priority that is rarely challenged. How do you argue against Jewish continuity?
What Monty Hall understands is that doctors need money for research and treatment, and the way to get it is to twist some donors' arms, to placate others, to lure still more with images of prancing bunnies, and to provide everyone with fun, good food and a mention in the tribute journal. Leave the noble aims to Maimonides -- this is Jewish philanthropy, circa 2007.
If money is, as former California Treasurer Jesse Unruh said, the "mother's milk of politics," then Alan Solomont is one successful dairyman. Solomont, a longtime leader in Jewish philanthropic and national Democratic political circles, is one of the go-to men when big money is needed.
Obama vs. Clinton is the horse race among Democrats, as the voice of change and the voice of experience pass each other week to week in fundraising and in polls. Among Jewish Democrats, however, it's no race, insiders in the fundraising community say. While Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has generated considerable excitement, the years Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has spent focusing on Israel and other issues of concern to the nation's largest Jewish community puts her firmly in front.
On a chilly autumn morning in late October, in a rooftop sukkahatop New York's Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a small group ofrabbis, Hebrew teachers and millionaire investors joined hands tomark what their leader called a "defining point in American Jewishphilanthropy": an $18 million fund to help create new Jewish dayschools around the country, paid for by a "partnership" among a dozenof America's richest Jewish families.